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NFL Usage Report for Week 8: Expected Fantasy Points Takeaways

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Michael Dolan

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In this week’s fantasy football usage report, I’ve identified five potential second-half breakout candidates at each position and explained whether I believe in the turnaround being possible. To do this, I’m utilizing FTN’s Expected Fantasy Points Data and comparing it to actual fantasy points scored.

 

Expected fantasy points help us identify how many points a player should be scoring in based on the opportunities they’re given, but as we all know, fantasy football doesn’t always go according to plan and can be tough to predict in the short term. When making predictions over a longer period of time though, volatility starts to stabilize a bit, which increases the accuracy of our predictions, and therefore creates buying opportunities for players who have underperformed to start the season.

With that said, here are the five players at each position who are seeing the largest gap between their expected fantasy points and their actual points scored. If you can target these players in trades, betting on a more fruitful second half of the season could quickly pay dividends.

Quarterback

Player Team Fantasy Points Expected Points Difference
Kyler Murray ARI 126.7 178.6 -51.9
Matthew Stafford LA 87.7 135.8 -48.1
Justin Herbert LAC 132.9 178.3 -45.4
Tom Brady TB 109.1 154.4 -45.3
Russell Wilson DEN 94.4 138.3 -43.9

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray hasn’t been the dominant force many drafted him to be, but on a per-game basis he’s still been a top-six quarterback in fantasy football due to his passing volume and rushing ability. Though he’s largely fallen short of expectations to start the season, the return of DeAndre Hopkins should increase his efficiency and help his actual fantasy points get closer to his expected numbers down the stretch. It is worth noting that Murray and the Cardinals have tended to cool off a bit down the stretch during his time there, so buyer beware.

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Matthew Stafford and the Rams have disappointed just about everyone besides Cooper Kupp fantasy managers this year. The lack of weapons outside of Kupp has made it hard for the Rams to generate a consistent offense, but betting on Sean McVay and his borderline Hall of Fame quarterback righting the ship down the stretch could make for a savvy buy-low opportunity for teams in need of QB help. Plus, the trade deadline is looming, and the Rams have been linked to numerous pass catchers, which would only increase Stafford’s value.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert Week 8 Fantasy Football Usage Report

This one feels crazy. Justin Herbert leads a high-volume passing attack, but just a year after being anointed as fantasy football’s golden boy, he’s drastically underwhelmed – especially in recent weeks. Luckily the return of Keenan Allen gives Herbert one of his favorite targets back, but unfortunately he just lost his other favorite target in Mike Williams for at least a month. Buying low on Herbert will be tough based on the name value alone, but he certainly has sky-high upside if the current manager is wavering at all.

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Admit it. We’ve all said Tom Brady is declining before, and it’s not unreasonable to think this is the year it actually happens for the 45-year-old. However, so far, every time we’ve tried to put a nail in Brady’s coffin, he’s proven us wrong time and time again. He’s got the weapons (though Mike Evans is a little banged up) and the volume necessary to turn his season around. Eventually Father Time will get the best of Brady, but if you’re in need of a quarterback and the current Brady owner in your league thinks Father Time has already won, I’d roll the dice on Brady continuing to be an anomaly.

Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Oh boy, this is where it really starts to get frisky. The Broncos have done absolutely nothing to inspire confidence on offense so far this year, but it does at least appear there’s room for improvement with Russell Wilson. Giving up anything of significant value to acquire him likely isn’t worth the risk, but he can likely be obtained basically for free if you’re willing to overlook his start to the season. You can’t expect much from Wilson at this point, but there’s at least a glimmer of upside that could be worth the dart throw if you’re desperate.

 

Running Back

Player Team Fantasy Points Expected Points Difference
Joe Mixon CIN 103.7 141.5 -37.8
Najee Harris PIT 71.0 91.4 -20.4
Jonathan Taylor IND 67.7 86.0 -18.3
J.D. McKissic WAS 48.8 65.8 -17.0
Alvin Kamara NO 78.2 94.9 -16.7

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

After dominating for the majority of last season, Joe Mixon has fallen short of expectations by a margin wider than any other running back. A lot of his underperformance can be attributed to the Bengals slow start in general, but their offense appears to be heating up which could bring positive news for Mixon down the stretch.

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Seeing Najee Harris on this list makes perfect sense as his fantasy production has been heavily dependent on volume throughout his career. With the Steelers offense struggling mightily to start the season, Harris’ efficiency has followed suit. It’s hard for me to envision this offense turning things around quickly, and that paired with Harris’ name value makes him one of the few names on this list who I believe are fool’s gold.

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

Ahh yes, the 1.01. Anyone who spent an early pick on Jonathan Taylor has surely been disappointed to start the year, but hear me out… I actually think the quarterback change in Indianapolis can help Taylor’s fantasy output. Switching from Matt Ryan to Sam Ehlinger could provide two potential boosts for Taylor. One, the team may run the ball more often with a less experienced quarterback under center. Two, Ehlinger’s more mobile than Ryan, which could provide a slight boost to the run game, making life easier on Taylor (though it’s worth noting, Ehlinger is much closer to Daniel Jones in that regard than he is to Lamar Jackson). If the current manager is worried about Taylor or the Colts offense in general, I’d gladly buy with the hope of a more efficient second half of the season.

J.D. McKissic, Washington Commanders

This name is easily the most surprising on the list, but we’ve seen time and time again that the coaching staff in Washington clearly loves J.D. McKissic. As a back who largely accumulates points through the air, it’s not surprising to see a guy on the receiving end of Carson Wentz passes underperforming, but there’s clearly room for improvement and McKissic’s 65.8 projected points would be good for 9.4 PPG, which makes him a solid depth piece or flex option if he can hit the mark.

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara has trended positively in recent weeks, which may make him a tricky player to acquire, but if he’s available he’s absolutely worth kicking the tires on with the hope of his recent weeks being a sign of things to come. We know the talent is there, and the volume has been as well, but it’s been the disappointing Saints offense that’s held him back a bit. If New Orleans can right the ship at all offensively down the stretch, Kamara still possesses the league-winning upside that we’ve seen from him in the past.

Wide Receiver

Player Team Fantasy Points Expected Points Difference
Diontae Johnson PIT 72.9 117.3 -44.4
Darnell Mooney CHI 49.4 82.7 -33.3
Courtland Sutton DEN 85.9 119.0 -33.1
Garrett Wilson NYJ 71.2 99.5 -28.3
Brandin Cooks HOU 62.1 90.3 -28.2

Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers

Much like with Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson falling short of expectations can largely be attributed to the Steelers’ offensive woes. Johnson remains a high usage player, but the passes from Kenny Pickett haven’t been nearly as fruitful as Johnson’s fantasy managers would like. While it’s not unreasonable to think Pickett can continue improving as he gains experience, fellow rookie George Pickens increased involvement may offset any potential efficiency gains. 

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears

The fantasy community’s favorite offseason sleeper is apparently still asleep. The Bears’ passing attack has been woeful this year, and Darnell Mooney has unfortunately struggled as a result. Recent weeks indicate the Bears’ may be improving as an offense overall, and Mooney makes for a prime bounce back candidate in the second half of the season. If the Bears continue trending upward, Mooney will follow suit, and he can likely be acquired at a very reasonable price at this point. He’s a great low-risk buy at this point of the season.

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

Courtland Sutton Week 8 Fantasy Football Usage Report

Unsurprisingly after seeing Russell Wilson in the quarterback section, we’re also seeing his top target lumped in with the group of underperforming receivers. The narrative for Courtland Sutton is the same as his quarterback. If you think Wilson and the Broncos can turn things around, Sutton possesses immense upside. That’s a tough gamble to make with how the Broncos have looked to start the season, but you have to take big risks to get big payouts, and Sutton is likely much easier to acquire now compared to where he was valued to start the season.

Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

Garrett Wilson had a few boom weeks early in his career, but he’s since cooled off a bit. The Jets’ quarterback situation is pretty gross right now, but with Breece Hall going down they might have no choice but to increase their passing volume. As long as Zach Wilson continues to struggle, Garrett Wilson will continue to leave points on the table. However, there’s a chance a potential uptick in volume can lead to more fantasy points despite the same underwhelming efficiency.

Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

For a long time, Brandin Cooks was a near-sure bet to eclipse 1,000 yards and finish as a WR2. It seems that this year though, the Texans’ No. 1 receiver is being severely handicapped by Davis Mills taking a step back from his rookie campaign. The Texans are a rebuilding team and have little incentive to get Cooks more involved in the offense at this point. His best chance for improved efficiency for the remainder of the season is via trade (where the rumors are circulating).

 

Tight End

Player Team Fantasy Points Expected Points Difference
Zach Ertz ARI 81.0 106.1 -25.1
Tyler Higbee LA 63.7 84.3 -20.6
Cameron Brate TB 24.4 40.2 -15.8
Brevin Jordan HOU 3.8 17.1 -13.3
Gerald Everett LAC 69.5 82.7 -13.2

Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals

With DeAndre Hopkins out of the lineup, Zach Ertz has seen an absurd amount of volume. Now that Hopkins is back though, it’s very easy to see Ertz’ expected points numbers take a bit of a nosedive with the Cardinals alpha receiver back in the mix. Ertz may see increased efficiency with Hopkins drawing attention from opposing defenders and will likely finish the season as a low-ceiling TE1, but it’s hard to envision him actually improving his fantasy output during the latter half of the season.

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

Much like with Ertz, Tyler Higbee has been the beneficiary of a lack of weapons in the offense he plays in. He’s surprisingly been the second-best fantasy option in the Rams’ passing attack, but he’s obviously trailing Cooper Kupp by a wide margin. Higbee feels like he’s in the same realm as Ertz as a low-ceiling TE1, but if the Rams get more production out of another pass-catching weapon, it will likely come at Higbee’s expense.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Of all the tight ends in this list, Cameron Brate feels like the best buy-low candidate. He’s tethered to the best quarterback of the bunch, and there’s a good chance he’s sitting on your waiver wire and can be added for free. We all know Tom Brady loves to target his tight ends, and even though Brate is no Rob Gronkowski, he can certainly be a beneficiary if the Bucs offense rights the ship down the stretch.

Brevin Jordan, Houston Texans

Similar to Brandin Cooks, Brevin Jordan is leaving points on the table due to poor quarterback play in Houston. Seeing two names from the same team crack these rankings should be viewed as a major red flag, and it’s hard to envision Jordan seeing an uptick in efficiency given how poor the Texans’ passing attack has been. This is another player who can likely be acquired for free, but at this point he’s nothing more than a flier you can take when your starter is injured/on bye.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers

This name was a bit of a surprise — it may have initially felt like Gerald Everett was overperforming to start the season, but the data indicates otherwise. Everett’s solid start to the season may make him tough to acquire, but at least while Mike Williams remains sidelined, his role in the Chargers passing attack should remain solid. A bet on Everett is just as much a bet on Justin Herbert and the entire Chargers’ passing attack, which isn’t a bad place to put your chips.

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